Here’s something you probably don’t hear all that often: I don’t like takeout. During the height of the pandemic, I knew I should support local eateries (and I did occasionally), but having restaurant-caliber food has always, to me, been about the theater of eating out. Cramming an exquisite, chef-prepared meal into a to-go container and eating it at the kitchen table just seems so antithetical to the experience of dining. Which is why I’m delighted—for you, and for me—that life has returned to a (relative) state of normality that has allowed us, after a two-year pause, to bring back our “25 Best Restaurants” franchise.

For the past five months, 5280’s tireless food team has been sitting at chef’s counters, parsing menus old and new, ordering steaks and oysters and fry bread and lentils, and trying all the desserts—at more than 70 restaurants—to bring you this lineup of the hottest places to grab a meal in and around Denver. There are some mainstays, of course—restaurants that have remained relevant for years despite changing trends and tastes. But there are also 15 spots that were not on the list in 2019, including 10 that have opened in just the past couple of years. “Denver restaurateurs have shown remarkable grit,” says food editor Patricia Kaowthumrong. “In the face of so many ongoing challenges, they dialed up the culinary creativity and continued to make Denver’s dining scene vibrant, diverse, and, most important, delicious—which is why compiling this list was so incredibly challenging.”

I can confirm that Kaowthumrong and Riane Menardi Morrison, who was until recently 5280’s associate food editor (she’s now our digital strategy editor), have chosen wisely. I’ve been to 12 of the dining rooms they’ve selected, and although I’m sure all the restaurants’ takeout options are delectable, I highly recommend making plans to go out to eat. You can enjoy the leftovers at your kitchen table.